Who’s going to buy religious books in the seventies? During the sixties religious books rolled off the presses in record numbers, but a jittery feeling about the future is robbing publishers of most of their satisfaction over past successes. And their concern is well founded.

Already some religious houses have been dissolved; others have been forced into mergers or have found it necessary to diversify in the direction of non-religious publications. Trade publishers are finding the religious market increasingly less fruitful.

Why the apparent decline of interest in religious books? There are many possible explanations, and any attempt to provide one is pretty well confined to the realm of speculation. But certainly, part of the answer is to be found in the current revolutionary changes in the world of religion. Problems in the book trade are but symptoms of problems in the Church. Three developments are especially worthy of note.

Revolt against the institutional church. No one can foretell just what will happen to the institutional church in the coming decade; but if it is to reclaim a place of substantial influence in society, it must come to grips with the fact that form without content has left many disillusioned and disinterested. They feel the Church has done little to meet their own personal needs or to deal with the problems of contemporary society. No doubt some who are essentially irreligious use the Church as a scapegoat for their rebellion against God, but there are others who affirm their sincere dedication to Christ and impatience with the Church in the same breath (e.g., Malcolm Muggeridge in Jesus Rediscovered, one of the most intriguing books of the past year).

This dissatisfaction with the Church will have a ...

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